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Why I thought ‘Black Swan’ wasn’t that great..

Posted in FILM by Laura H on February 1, 2011

Black Swan‘. The film that everyone was waiting for, the one that they’re all taking about. The one that so many people have called masterpiece and that so many people keep on praising on Twitter and Facebook and blogs.

And I wonder… really?

I wanted to see ‘Black Swan’ very badly: it had a great trailer, greater posters, and the plot seemed fascinating. However, when I left the cinema last Saturday after finally seeing it, I felt disappointed.

Here are the reasons why…


I guess that the ‘Black Swan‘s target audience is not the same one that goes to the ballet, so the fact that what the movie tells about ‘Swan Lake’ is half invented is probably unknown to most of those who’ve seen it. Unfortunately for me (at least in this case) I’ve always been a ‘Swan Lake’ fan: I love the music, I love the story, I love the ballet. Which is why I know that the black swan is not the evil twin of the white swan as the film kind of suggests. Nor that the white swan is such a fragile character. It’s true that the white swan is a Princess (Odette) that’s been transformed into a swan by an evil wizard (Rothbart), but that’s about it. On the other side, the black swan (Odile) is the daughter of Rothbart who is transformed into a white swan lookalike to fool Siegfried (the Prince) so that Odette’s spell is not broken. Both parts are played by the same dancer, yes, but they’re different characters. And the black swan only appears on Act III of a four act ballet.


While watching the film, I found it very hard to engage with it. For some reason, I had a constant feeling that every single thing that happens in it happens for the sole reason that it’s cool, scary or shocking. I didn’t really see any logic behind it, just a collection of moments that suited Aronofky’s desires. For him, characters and emotions are disposable. One moment they’re here, the next they’ve gone. There are too many things in this film that could’ve been explored so much more but remain simple, flat and empty stereotypes (the character of the mother, for instance).


I know that Aronofsky’s never really been into subtlety but… this was a little too much.

I don’ think we needed every single detail in the movie to be black or white (the clothes, the decoration in Vincent Cassel’s apartment and studio,…) to understand what this film is about. The same way that we don’t need the Swan Lake music everywhere (jewellery box? mobile phone tone?).

Aronofsky makes such an effort in turning everything ‘Swan Lake’ that it gets to a point where it seems that there was/won’t be any life in any of those characters before/after what the movie tells. And that takes a lot of humanity off them.


Is it me or every time he opened his mouth it was to make a huge statement that, deep down, was pure cliche? His character’s so over the top that it’s almost a caricature…

*THE SOUNDTRACK (well, not the music itself)*

I find slightly embarrassing the fact that the credits of the film say ‘Original Score by Clint Mansell’. I do love Clint Mansell, but half of the tracks of this soundtrack are (beautiful, that’s for sure) arrangements of Swan Lake. Surely Tchaikovsky deserved a mention?

* * *

Still, I don’t think the movie is a complete disaster. It is true that Natalie Portman is amazing as Nina, that it’s visually stunning, that it’s shot beautifully and that the last 30 mins are quite breathtaking. But for me, it’s not the masterpiece everyone’s talking about…


3 Responses

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  1. Claudia said, on February 1, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Ooooh, I’m sad you didn’t like it. I mean, it’s not the movie I’ll watch every year (The Social Network is probably it) but I liked it a lot and I found it very disturbing. I don’t think they say (I really don’t remember it that well) that Odette and Odile are sisters, it’s only that usually in The Swan Lake the same dancer plays both roles, that’s why they need someone with the innocence of Odette and the passion and violence, I guess, of Odile. I thought it was a really well done portray of the craziness that can get into someone’s head when trying to be an artists at its best. I actually thought all the characters were quite black & white, which is cool. I mean, the mom is bad but she wants the best for her, so it’s not that bad. Vincent Cassel wants to make out of Nina the best dancer possible, but the way he does it it’s quite… wrong. It’s all kind of double sided.
    And I really loved the colors, the black, the white and the pink. It amazed me. But that’s definitely a directorial choice that the audience can like or not. Amelie is red and green, and I bet a lot of people do not like that either, so it depends.
    I guess it doesn’t help I just read an article in my screenwriting magazine about the movie. I kind of followed the whole process and understood more things that I had missed and, I kind of like them better when I also learn how they were made. Makes sense?
    🙂 See you in 10 days!

  2. becarefuldarlingyoumightfall said, on February 2, 2011 at 12:12 am

    A lot of sense!

    I see your point, and I think my main problem is that I’ve know ‘Swan Lake’ for so long that some things in the movie are just not what my head thinks the ballet/story is. It’s true that the film never really says that Odette and Odile are sisters, but the way it tells the story… it kind of invites you to believe they are. I’m sure if you ask people who have seen it, many will say that the black swan is the evil twin of the white swan.

    I’m not saying I didn’t like the colours either. I think the cinematography is amazing. What I didn’t like were some elements of the art direction that were a little too obvious/excessive for me. As for the characters’ ambiguity, what you say is also true, but for me they’re still quite stereotypical…

    I guess that, like all Aronofsky, this is a very much love it or hate it film. I’m not a big fan of his work, but I find it very interesting and always watch everything he does. I do believe that he’s a visual genious though, but I don’t think he’s found the right balance between the way his films look and the way he tells his stories yet.

    And yes, 10 days. YAY!


    PS: Will you keep a copy of that magazine so I can read the article too? 🙂

  3. rory said, on February 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I think it’s safe to say that if this was more arthouse and funded by different sources the film would be less obvious and the swan lake story wouldn’t have been quite as crudley adjusted for the ease of interpretation, but as it’s a hollywood flick I guess that is as subtle as I can imagine he was allowed or allowed himself to be . I enjoyed it all the same but could have been better if the target audience was more selective and it was less dumbed down (on the other hand with a lesser budget the visuals/production could have suffered)

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